A few months ago I gave an interview to Alison Jarrett/ Department of Journalism and Communications.
Purpose: Dissertation MC499 submitted to the Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, August 2010
In partial fulfilment of the requirements for the MSc in Global Media and Communications.
The questions are in red and my answers follow…
Interview Questions for Xenia
- Full name (please indicate if you do not want it disclosed in publication):
- Can you briefly describe the Muslim community you are a part of [i.e. where authority is, how big the community is, how intimately you know one another, how close you live to one another]?
I live in Essex, just the outskirts of East London, and where I live, there is a multicultural society and many Religious Faiths. The area has many Islamic Centres where Muslims meet , not only for the Obligatory prayers 5 times per day), but for Qur’anic Arabic, Arabic as a language , Islamic Studies as well as other occasions such as weddings, funerals, and if assistance or advice is needed from qualified scholars. Fundraising events and Ramadan, the 2 Eids (the Islamic Festivals) also give a wonderful opportunity for Muslims to meet and strengthen the bonds of the Islamic brotherhood. Strong Community links are of great importance as well. Our Local mosque is a marvellous Community Centre, and Visitors from other faiths are warmly welcomed. Our Local Mosque is an Oasis for reverted Brothers and Sisters, as well as anyone at all who might need help. It remains open all day with study rooms and all the facilities accessible for all.
I occasionally visit, however as it is not obligatory for females to attend the prayers at the mosque, I prefer to spend most of my time at home , engaging in beneficial knowledge and activities, including my blogs.
- Your site appears less than a year old, yet you reverted to Islam 3(?) years ago. What led you to create the site and what kept you from starting it for three years?
Though I reverted to Islam more than 3 years ago, after intensive research into the Religion, I felt that I needed time for myself to increase my knowledge and built on my confidence before I was ready enough to venture into “ deeper waters”.
The reasons I started my Blogs are as follows:
Islam changed me. ISLAM IS NOT ONLY A Religion but a complete system of life. The beauty of Islam touched me in so many ways and improved me from the inside and out. I finally knew my purpose in Life, where I am heading (The afterlife) and How to be Successful. I wanted to share this Divine Message with others. I wanted everybody to know that Islam is not the Enemy, that Islam is a religion of peace ( peace which you achieve )by submitting to the One and Only Creator with No Partners and OurCreator has Given us the Manuals ( The Qur’an and the Sunnah of the prophet) to get close to him and to be Successful. Also in Islam Dawah (giving the message) is an obligation for every Muslim, if they know much or little as long as it is accurate. Though there is No coercion in Islam, we have to give the message.
Prior to myself accepting Islam, I had a very different and negative picture about the Religion. The Media, as well as the behaviour of some “Muslims” had created in me a huge dislike about the religion. I felt that as myself was, there are people out there who for one reason or another “hate “anything to do with Islam and Muslims. They are mislead by media propaganda and I feel that Islam Is the Most Misunderstood Religion on the planet as far as I could see.
So I wanted people to see that Islam is not difficult, that Islam is beautiful and if you want to know about Islam, do not look at the behaviour of some of the Muslims but read the Divine Scriptures and research the Religion by asking people of Knowledge who have spent years and years studying the Religion.
- How much time do you commit to maintaining your blog or site?
I maintain 2 blogs:
My primary blog is
This is my first Blog which I started in September 2009.
On this blog I dedicate all my free time which varies between 3-4 hours per day. (more or less).
This Blog started mainly as an Islamic Knowledge Reference library with material collected from reliable sources. Since then it has become a very busy blog with loads of traffic from all parts of the world. It is visited by Muslims and Non Muslims alike and has changed in content since its beginning. Now I prepare and post mainly my own articles or presentations and is hugely appreciated by many. There are over 2000 articles and increasing with myself posting between 5-10 posts per day. (Time permitting).
My secondary Blog is:
The time I spend on this blog varies from day to day. This blog is a more “tranquil” and relaxed blog to visit. It is also visited by Muslims and Non Muslims alike, but it has a slower pace, that’s why I called it Reflections 4 Muslimahs. On this blog though I do not post every day I still try to spend some time on it every day , answering comments and visiting my blog’s followers’ own blogs (if they have any) and basically keep therelationships of friendship and affection that developed through our blogs going. I would say I spend app an hour per day on this blog.
a. Do you think it’s too much? Not enough? Why?
I feel that the amount of time I spend on my blogs is just right for my life style and commitments. Of course I would like to do more and that is not only for the blogs but for any good cause alike. So yes, I would love to spend more time and do more…
Where/who are the top three sources you go to for religious guidance and fulfillment?
My main Sources:
1) The Holy Qur’an which Muslims believe is the Word of God
2(The Prophet Sunnah (Ahadeeth- The prophetic tradition)
3)Tafseer ibn Kathir ( In depth explanation of the Qur’an)
In addition I have a list of reliable authentic and approved my Scholars websites which I regularly visit for knowledge and material for my blogs. Plus I have a collection of Islamic Books.
( sorry the answer has 4 parts) but it is important to mention
- What sort of feedback do you get from your Muslim community/Muslim family about keeping a blog about Islam?
They just think I work too hard but deep down they are fully supportive.
- Do your kids read your blog?
Yes, my children are free to read, discuss and contribute.
- Is there anyone you would not want to read your blog/site?
No, I am very open and everybody is welcome to read my Blogs.
- What things are you especially careful about when writing?
Misconceptions, Innovations, attributing something to Allah and His messenger that is not truth, misleading the people and causing trials on this earth by introducing false beliefs and ways of worship.
- How does writing about Islamic literature and scripture benefit you?
I love Books, I adore learning. I admire progress and development. These are my benefits. I will discuss Knowledge.
My research and my blogs motivate me, Increase and solidify my Knowledge and improve my Understanding.
Knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim, male or Female. The knowledge we acquire is but a drop to the ocean. I will never stop learning and I will never consider myself accomplished.
- In what ways does your blog/site represent you as a person?
I consider myself to be an easy going, caring, and deeply compassionate person. I hope this comes through my posts and for me if my blogs helped even 1 person on this earth if he/she was in difficulty, it would make all the efforts worthwhile.
- The writings you post come almost exclusively from sacred texts and Muslim authors. Why is this?
In Islam as I mentioned above we have to be very careful, not to attribute anything new to Allah, the Prophet or the Religion. The Religion was completed by Allah, while Prophet Muhammad was alive and we do not need to add anything on. It is just perfect.
- How did you choose the books? Who recommended them to you?
I visit only reputable Bookshops like Darussalam where I have an opportunity to speak to discuss with the sales staff, what my enquiries are and what I need.
- A lot of your posts are inspirational and devotional; about maintaining happiness and contentment. Why do you choose to focus on these types of issues?
I think that the world is so materialistic that people have forgotten how to be happy and how to be grateful for all the blessings god has given them. We need to be reminded that happiness is not in how much money you have, or what car you drive but happiness is within your own self and can be found for free everywhere, in nature , in a nice meal, in taking care of yourself , in helping others, etc.
- I’ve noticed that when you share your own opinions, you make a point to show it’s your own thought and not another author’s. Also, your thoughts are usually quite concise. Is this a fair assessment? If so, why are they so short and concise?
You can say the same thing in so many ways. I choose to be brief and to state that is my opinion. The reason is again that if I say anything wrong, it is my mistake and no anybody else’s as I explained before. I only want to give my opinion but not to impose it on anybody else.
- You use some Islamic phrases and terms in your writing. Why is that?
These are common terms that we use in Islam like “Thank God”, “I seek the Forgiveness of God”, “May god bless you” but the exact meaning is only attributed by the Arabic Terms. (‘Allah’ means one God whilst ‘God’ can turn into Goddess-Gods- Semi gods- etc). Again, just being careful and precise.
- You write about converting to Islam after 30 years as a non-believer. How does this period of non-belief enhance or strengthen your writing?
As a Non – believer to a Believer I went through drastic “changes”. I went through a lot of soul searching, searching, researching and searching again. I wanted to be sure as much as I could. This personal battle might be reflected in the way I approach, people, and topics. The mistakes I made as a Non Believer, at the time I was unable to recognise them for what they were. Mistakes. If I can share my experiences with others and help somebody to avoid mistakes that lead to heartbreak, it will be all I want.
- Imagine a young, British non-believer visits your site. What is his/her impression of your content?
“Islam is not so bad after all. Let’s read on and see what Xenia has to say about Islam and Muslims.”
- What do you want him/her to think?
There is Only God- Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger.
- Is there value in dialogue between believers and non-believers? If yes, how do you address this in your content?
Of course any opportunity to have a dialogue is an opportunity to get to know each other, and learn from each other. Sometimes I feel happy and sometimes I feel insulted and sometimes I feel despair and sometimes I feel elated and so on. This might show in posts where I have a “moan” or “I am grateful” or “I love everybody for the sake of Allah” and so on.
- Where did you first learn to create web pages?
I was a member of a forum where I was honoured for a while to be a moderator and editor of their blog. I enjoyed my brief stay with them and I learnt how to use wordpress.
- In one of your recent posts (July 10), you talk about how reading the blogs of other bloggers provides you with knowledge, motivation and Imaan (I take that to mean ‘assurance’). This sounds like an online community. Do you consider yourselves a community? If so, what qualifies it as such?
Imaan means Faith.
As mentioned in my article, yes relationships of friendship do develop, and common beliefs, interests, aims and mutual understanding strengthen the bonds. You can call us a Cyber Community.
- Why is an online community preferable for you?
I would not say preferable but it is a very nice option. The technology helps me to reach out further and more so why not take advance of this great opportunity?
- How does your blog/site compare to others technically?
I use WordPress and BlogSpot. I am very happy with both though WordPress is suitable for the more demanding Blogger and you can do a lot more with it.
- What kind of feedback do you get on your site?
a. Who do you get it from?
From readers and fellow Bloggers. Mostly wonderful, encouraging, supportive and appreciative.
The majority of the comments are appreciative and encouraging. I try to answer every question to the best of my ability by referring to the authentic sources and researching matters myself. In Islam we are required to tell the truth and research before we give any information regarding the Religion as we should not mislead in any way whatsoever. That’s why I always give a reference of the source that I obtained the information from. If I am unable to be of assistance I usually advice the person to refer the matter to a qualified scholar. As with regards to the negative feedbacks (as long as they are not offensive), it gives an opportunity for discussion and understanding.
- One of your earlier posts was addressing a criticism you felt was improperly dealt. What parts of you personally were offended and what sorts of emotions did you experience?
An attack on Islam, Allah, and The Prophet would never be welcome. I would never dream of insulting somebody’s religious Belief and I will always treat everybody with the outmost respect.
Generalising due to ignorance of the Religion and calling me disrespectful names and assuming things would never be welcome. A genuine civilised dialogue would be more than welcome and I will always be available.
I just felt sad and disappointed with the ignorance.
- How often do you write about other online content (i.e. articles, videos, forums)?
a. Do other sites mention your content?
There is no fixed timetable but I do include videos from YouTube, Slideshares, and motivational films, Nasheeds, Qur’an recitation, Hadeeth.
I believe I am on the blog roll of several Blogs.
- How has having a blog/site changed the way you read online content?
By being extra careful and by being Mega aware that there are deviant sites that a lot of people might fall in the trap of.
- Do you think it’s a good thing that anyone can produce content?
Yes of course as long as the person is thorough, honest, and trustworthy and does not have ulterior motives.
- If you weren’t blogging, what would you spend the extra time on?
I would say that maybe I would be having more rest. Other than that I am not one to watch TV or similar pass times so I am content as things are.
- And one last question: What has surprised you most about having a blog/site?
That I was brave enough to manage to master the technology and the love and affection that come to me through Cyber Space.
Please contact me if you need further information.
It was a pleasure to answer your delightful questions
Best of Luck with the Project